Category Archives: Fun Group Dinner

Locanda: insanely delicious and varied menu – with cocktails!

locanda

Picking a restaurant that appeals to my dad is difficult for mostly because of our difference in taste, but also because of his “full bar or this restaurant is dead to me” dining perspective. A lot of San Fran’s latest restaurants only offer beer and wine, which is fine by me, but not by a man who was drinking martinis before it was cool or commonplace to do so. Fortunately, because Locanda’s cocktail menu is boasting with great concoctions, and the restaurant was next on my “to-try” list, it presented itself as the perfect option for a father-daughter dinner with my mom out of town.

delicious crusty bread

delicious crusty bread

Jewish style artichoke - fried and crisp with lemon

Jewish style artichoke – fried and crisp with lemon

chicken under a brick

flavorful chicken under a brick

Despite the fact that I’d say my dad and I rarely eat similar foods, we both left totally wowed by all aspects of the meal, from the attentive but not so clingy service, to the complimentary olive-oily flat bread, to the crispy fried jewish style artichoke, to the luscious linguine with crab and lettuce, to my awesome chicken under the brick with quinoa. A sign of a good menu is one that makes the ordering decision process a tough one, and honestly, I almost had a panic attack considering the possibility of eating one of five dishes I felt I couldn’t live without. While I may not choose the ricotta bread pudding with orange blossom honey (a little too dry for me) again, I’ll absolutely return to experiment the other solid Italian style food Locanda has to offer. Check out my video for more footage of our meal and my dad’s profession of love for Locanda.

Grade: A
Location: 557 Valencia Street btwn 16th and 17th
Website

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Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Californian Cuisine, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, San Francisco

Izakaya Ten: a quaint Japanese gem in no-man’s land

izakaya ten

When most people think of 10th avenue, I’m guessing that the thought of great restaurants doesn’t come to mind. But if you creep up north of 20th street, there are quite a few dark horses that I wish I had discovered sooner, one of which is a called Izakaya Ten. Izakayas are Japanese drinking establishments that also serve food. Here, despite the late hours (they close at 3am!) I would never have considered food as an afterthought. The menu is chalk full of goodies. And the energy that a boozey-focus brings solves the problem of the dreary, awkwardly quiet atmosphere of typical sushi bars. Izakaya Ten teleports you from a wide, uncharacteristic avenue to a restaurant you’d expect to find on a side street in Tokyo (or Korea? there’s kim chi). It’s got energy. It’s got hard alcohol. It has massive hand written, animé style menus. There’s music playing. And because it’s so tiny, you really feel like you’re enjoying the experience together along with the patrons around you.

I came here expecting a long list of sushi, but no, the goods go beyond sliced seafood. Yes, there’s a few selections of raw fish (we ordered most of them (the spicy tuna donburi, the sashimi plate, and the toro tuna belly seared over rice), but it’s the small plates of cooked food that really got me going. And as the sake kept pouring, we lost all shame in incessantly ordering more food: shishito peppers, a crispy cod roe rice ball wrapped in seaweed, another crispy rice ball with salmon, the chilled Japanese eggplant in broth, the savory, decadent jumbo shumai, the kara age (ginger deep-fried chicken), and of course, the special fried soft shell crab. In addition to the uniqueness of the menu, the icing on the cake was the attentive Australian server who feigned to be happy to answer our constant requests for more sake and more food.

 

kara age

softshell crab

softshell crab

rice ball!

rice ball!

 

 

We were lucky to walk in on a Friday night at 8pm and get a table right away, but it would have been worth the wait. Izakaya Ten is the perfect place for a fun dinner for a group of up to 4 people, or even for a more eventful, share-plate style date. It can get expensive if you don’t reign in the ordering, but it’s a place you want to arrive hungry and uninhibited. I can’t wait to take advantage of the fact that I’m walking distance to this spot!

Grade: A+
Location: 207 10th Ave btwn 22nd and 23rd Streets 
Website

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Filed under Asian, Barbecue, Chelsea, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Japanese

The Nomad: Daniel Humm’s rich, carefully plated dishes in a gorgeous mahogany library

Photo from NYTimes

Photo from NYTimes

I finally checked The Nomad off my bucket list, thanks to hearing from many people this weekend that it’s their absolute favorite restaurant in New York. After a late night out Saturday the last thing I felt like doing was dressing up for a rich, semi-fancy meal, but I knew it would be a mistake to pass up the 7:30pm reservation I scored last minute.

Long story short is that the place is magical – absolutely stunning with the high ceilings and warm lighting. But I’m guessing the aura of importance this place exudes is what makes the prices are as high as they are, because while the food was definitely impressive in presentation, nothing I ate was as standout as what I had expected for such gorgeous, dramatic surroundings. If I were to return, it would primarily be to re-live the feeling of being in a setting that’s truly unique and regal, but takes care not to be overly stuffy.

Library dining room

Library dining room

The cocktail list is extensive but our sommelier recommended two delicious bottles of wine that paired with the copious amounts of food my friends and I ordered. My favorite part was hands-down the hot chick-pea crusted rosemary focaccia, which they generously give to every table. I would have paid a good $10 for this. I appreciated that they offered two sizes of the crab lemon tagliatelle, but while it was bright and refreshing, the amount of crab was seriously pathetic. Along with the simple lettuce salad (which was pretty boring), the tuna tartare, served skewered on actual tuna bones, was the lightest thing on the menu and a welcome starter for what was to come.

focaccia - this was from last season

focaccia – this was from last season

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

The theme of the rest of the meal was heavy, rich, and doused with butter. Eating everything from foie gras to fried sweetbread egg rolls, I felt like I was in Versailles. The egg poached in butter with quinoa actually tasted like a frothy butter soup. Then, because we pretty  much had to, we moved onto their special chicken for 2, which at $79 I expected to blow me away. Theoretically, it should have. The chicken, which is first presented whole and then carved and plated, is massaged with black truffle foie gras stuffing. The dark meat is carved and served in a separate cast iron pot of “jus”, which honestly tasted like rich, meat flavored butter. The stuffing on the breast meat was great, and the entire presentation was creative, but I’ve had better chicken in Korea town. The meat itself lacked flavor and could have really benefitted from some brining. A+ for creativity, but B- for actual taste and flavor.

chicken before carving

chicken before carving

chicken carved

chicken carved (photo from starchefs.com)

chocolate dessert

chocolate dessert

milk and honey

milk and honey

The desserts, as usual on this blog, saved the day – probably because we had little chance to fail since we ordered every item on the menu (and the waiter kindly brought us one on the house). Each was beautifully plated and incorporated lots of variation in texture – the chocolate dessert had little squares of rich fudge bites, crispy chocolate cookies, and malt ice cream. I loved their well known “milk and honey”, three scoops of subtly flavored honey ice cream with crispy shortbread and brittle. Others raved about the poached strawberries with angel food cake and ricotta, but I’m not usually a fan of fruit dessert. If I’m going to eat dessert, I want it to be as far away from healthy food as possible.

I’m very satisfied with my experience at Nomad because 1) I finally got to see what the hype was all about, 2) I proved to myself that the chicken was not worth $79, 3) I got to spend over two hours in one of the most striking, grandiose  real life version of Harry Potter’s library ever, and 4) Most importantly, it will tide me over from expensive, special-occasion meals for the next few months. Was it the best meal of my life? Definitely not. But I would recommend having the experience at least once to everyone.

Grade: B
Location: 1170 Broadway @ 28th
Website 

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Filed under Business Meal, Flatiron, French, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Romantic Date, Sex & The City Swank

Saravana Bhavan: dosas in comfort and cleanliness

saravanna

I had my first Indian meal when I visited the Indian port city of Chennai during my semester at sea in 2007. I was 20. While I know Indian cuisine has so much history and possesses the qualities I look for in food – flavor, aroma, variation, and a focus on bread – I just never had the opportunity to really get into it growing up. My family would dine on Filipino food or burritos when we were feeling really adventurous. Now that I have an Indian man in my life (Chef Akhtar), I have no choice but to incorporate this very unique cuisine in my life.

During our visit to the Indian market today in “Curry Hill”, there really was no way to avoid eating Indian for lunch. And with a lingering hangover at lunch time, I welcomed it with open arms. Thanks to the advice of a customer at the market, we were told to walk two blocks down to a place called “Saravana Bhavan” – thankfully she detailed the location, because I forgot the name instantly. When Chef Akhtar and I walked in, it was bustling with Indian families eating Sunday lunch – which I take as a key indicator of an Indian restaurant’s authenticity. The plates flying by all got my stomach rumbling, and I somehow soon ordered the most expensive item on the menu – the $17.99 South Indian Thali, which came as a platter with hot bread, rice, and mini bowls of Indian curries and stews for dipping. Using bread to shovel an array of delicious things in my mouth, which is often how I eat Mediterranean food, is my favorite way of eating – I only wish the bread was a little greasier and crispier like Naan, which the restaurant doesn’t serve. We also ordered the Masala Dosa, which arrived as a massive cone engulfing a concentrated scoop of potato and peas. The bread was crispy, moist, and a sturdy utensil for the three accompanying sauces. And on a whim, we requested a fluffy Poori, a fried fluffy whole wheat bread that was just another perfect vehicle for dipping into my tray of delights.

dosa

dosa

a platter for a Queen

a platter for a Queen

inflated poori

inflated poori

I can’t say I loved every little bowl on the platter; the sweet mango and rice pudding I could have done without, but the koottu (lentil puree) and the rasam (a South Indian Tamarind soup) were especially soothing to my hung over soul. Washed down with a diet coke, this hearty, vegetarian, finger-fed meal became a new found cure to an upset stomach. I’ll definitely be back when the mood to head north and east in Manhattan strikes me.

Grade: A-
Location: 81 Lexington Ave @ 26th Street
Website

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Filed under Affordable Date, Cheap Eat, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Indian, Murray Hill

Gran Electrica, El Toro Blanco & ABC Cocina: a sampling of modern Latin American fare

Beans, cheese, guacamole
I miss San Fran Mexican
Still can’t get enough.

I’ve been on a Mexican whirlwind lately because, well, I am actually always on a Mexican whirlwind. These past few weeks I’ve sampled some of the most popular Latin American restaurants to date, and while I was overall underwhelmed by my experiences, there were definitely some standout dishes that may entice me to return…should the opportunity present itself.

Of the three, ABC Cocina was definitely the standout. My visit here was very happenstance. I had a satisfying dinner of a juicy kobe beef cheese burger  at ABC Kitchen with my boyfriend, and then we both realized that Jean George’s new restaurant was just across the way. We asked to see the menu, and boom, the next thing we know we were eating our dessert in the form of Latin American appetizers (though note that Chef JG describes this food as “a fusion of tradition and innovation combining yesterday and tomorrow”…). The disappointment was the flavorless, gummy fried peekey-toe crab and corn fritters with chipotle mayo, which I pretended to enjoy as JG nervously walked by (investors must have been in the house). What made up for it were bright and impeccably flakey sweet pea empanadas with yogurt and the delicate sauteed mushroom tacos. The cocktails were absolutely amazing and, as promised, inventive. I had the gin and coconut water, which was served up with ginger in an ice cold martini glass. The energy in the restaurant is vibrant and sexy, and the rest of the menu looks divine so I hope to return for a more honest experience (as opposed to a post-cheese-burger evaluation).

Inside

Inside

peeky toe crab fritters

peeky toe crab fritters

green pea empanadas - delicious!

green pea empanadas – delicious!

I’d say the second best was Gran Electrica in adorable Dumbo, where I literally was able to try almost everything given I was going with a chef and restaurateur for “research” (thank God). Unfortunately the garden was wet and unattainable the evening we went, so I didn’t even get to experience their most attractive asset. On top of that, the double-sided chips were stale, the guacamole was over-smashed and monotonous with minimal “mix-ins”, and the flautas de pollo with salsa verde, though actually quite taste and bright, were served cold. That said, there were things that I loved, like the verduras en escabeche (pickled vegetables), the light romaine salad, the creamy, havarti filled and steamed chile rilleno, the deeply flavorful Frijoles de la Olla (black beans with oregano and queso fresco) and the quesadilla setas stuffed with oyster mushroom, queso fresco and jalapeno. The refreshing Tostada Jaiba, with peekytoe crab, lime, citrus and avocado, was inventive, crispy, and well-balanced, but the tacos overall were low on the flavor scale and just underwhelming. The tres leches cake, hiding a ring of pineapple and served with excruciatingly sweet caramel, was no where near as good as that of La Esquina’s. If you go to Dumbo for your Mexican food, I’d say save it for a day where you can sip margaritas on Gran Electrica’s back porch and focus on the more interesting dishes as opposed to what might be your go-to taco.

outside

outside

my favorite, crab tostada

my favorite, crab tostada. the perfect light meal

carnitas

carnitas

yes, we ordered this. flavorless and insanely overwhelming

yes, we ordered this. flavorless and insanely overwhelming

awesome salad

awesome salad

fish tacos

fish tacos

Of the three, El Toro Blanco was the most underwhelming food and scene-wise. At 9:30pm on a Saturday, the place was almost empty, and despite their attempt at setting the scene with darkness and music, it just feels a little stale. The chips are served in white bowls, the energy dipped early – it strikes me as the Mexican restaurant for an older crowd. The menu has some interesting options. The tostada chopped salad was actually pretty delicious, filled with romaine, tomato, black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, chips and lime vinaigrette, and the grilled swordfish tacos and shortrib empanadas were tasty (albeit sweet), but I didn’t finish the meal super excited about my experience. The Sonoran cheese crisp, which was an open faced quesadilla with tomato, tasted like the homemade pizzas I make at home with grocery-store tortillas. The chocolate cake with mini churros and ice cream I do remember being pretty addictive though. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my meal here, I just wouldn’t come racing back when I know I can get an even more exciting Mexican experience at the $5 per taco Dos Toros.

inside

inside

quesadilla - crispy but nothing genius

quesadilla – crispy but nothing genius

My conclusion? Nothing has changed, I still love Mexican food and on most nights would prefer any of these restaurants over that serving any other food group. But against all Mexican / Latin American restaurants I’ve tried in this city (and around the states), I wouldn’t say these ones jump out at me. I’d love to give ABC Cocina another go-round when their “booked for 31 days straight” status simmers down.

ABC Cocina Grade: A-
Gran Electrica Grade: B+
El Toro Blanco Grade: B-

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Filed under Brooklyn, Chelsea, Drinks & Apps, Flatiron, Fun Group Dinner, Greenwich Village, Mexican, Noteworthy Noshes, West Village

Co.: blistered 900 degree oven pizza in peace and air conditioning

co-pane

Pizza is my favorite food, and in a city like New York I get overwhelmed deciding where to satisfy my frequent cravings for it. Co. has been on my list since I learned that this civilized Neapolitan pizza restaurant was the creation of Jim Lahey, the well-known Founder of Sullivan Street Bakery. But avoiding the crazy thoroughfare beyond 23rd street always got the best of me just when I was close to testing it out. Now that I’m moving in September (to San Francisco before going to school abroad for a year – happy yet sad for many reasons, so let’s move on), I had no excuse to deny my urge to sample Jim’s pizzas when my hankering for crispy crust came on.

Fortunately, the wait-times have really died down over the past three years, and our party of 3 was seated right away. We started with a simple, tiny radicchio shiitake mushroom salad served with taleggio cheese, which was nothing more than a hunger teaser. The vinegar was bright, and the taleggio cheese was creamy and strong. We then tasted two pies, both unique in their own right: the meatball pizza with tomato, mozzarella, meatball, and caramelized onion, and the Popeye pizza with pecorino, gruyere, mozzarella, black pepper, garlic and loads of leafy spinach. I loved them both. The spinach pizza was bright, summery and healthily prepared with greens piled on top of a lightly-cheese covered pizza dough, and I didn’t miss the tomato sauce at all. The veal meatballs on the meatball pizza were the perfect addition to an otherwise plain tomato and mozzarella pizza, and the caramelized onion rounded out their saltiness perfectly. Though this pizza did come with sauce, I would have liked a little more of it.

radicchio salad with taleggio and mushrooms

radicchio salad with taleggio and mushrooms

Co.-Meatball-Pizza

Meatball pizza with olives and caramelized onions

Popeye pizza with spinach, gruyere, pecorino and mozzarella

Popeye pizza with spinach, gruyere, pecorino and mozzarella

Dough is obviously a key element to the quality of the pizza, and I have to say that the crispy, blistering pizza dough at Co. was one of my favorites. Its chew, texture, and weight and stood up to the bounty of toppings like a champ.

Co. is a great spot for those who want high quality traditional Italian pizza in a zen, pristine setting, almost identical to the aesthetic of San Francisco’s casual Out The Door. As a person who takes restaurant ambience preferences seriously, this is my kind of pizza joint, and I’ll definitely be coming back. Just keep in mind they don’t serve hard liquor.

Grade: A- (I’ll take the minus sign off when I get a plate of free bread)
Location: 230 9th Avenue @ 23rd Street
Website

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Filed under Affordable Date, American, Chelsea, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, Pizza

Lafayette: neck and neck with Balthazar as my favorite brasserie

dj-laf-blog480

Balthazar is one of the few restaurants that has remained one of my favorites since since moving to New York 5 years ago (I still can’t get over how long it’s been). I love it for the atmosphere – the hastiness of the waitstaff zooming by, the energy of the people in the room, the wide brasserie style seating, and I go back each time of course for the food and drink – the amazing bread and butter, the simple salads, the hot fudge covered profiteroles, and the shockingly strong French 75’s get me every time. Everything about this place screams New York brasserie, which Keith McNally seems to do so well.

Never did I ever imagine that a newcomer could one up such a longstanding New York staple, but after my epic experience at beautiful Lafayette last Tuesday, I think Balthazar may need to up its game to remain the king of the brasserie crop. Lafayette, which took over the massive Chinatown Brasserie space, is a beautifully spacious, well-lit and enchanting French brasserie that transports you from New York city to a fantasy land (think Great Gatsby) where there’s not a care in the world. I walked in and gasped – a delectable boulangerie with mounds of pastries welcomes you at the entrance, and with staircases and side-by-side booths to optimize the space, there really doesn’t seem to be a bad table in the house. And just like Balthazar, there’s this inescapable and addictive vibrancy – everyone is more alive than ever: happy, hungry and actively people watching.

lafayette bakery

grandiose bakery upfront

Service was humble and spot on. After a few slices of the rustic sourdough bread with salted butter and a delicious glass of champagne (cremant de Bourgogne), we were served Eggs Lafayette, essentially two stuffed hard boiled eggs with sable fish and trout caviar. Absolutely heaven on earth, and pretty much the best, most unique rendition of deviled eggs I’ve ever had. Next was the Pate Maison, which came with brown ceramic jars of unlimited cornichons (great touch) and brown mustard and grilled rustic bread. This paired well with the massive, lightly dressed butter lettuce salad with roquefort and country ham. RARELY am I impressed by a salad, but this was so fresh, light and stunning with the creamy blue cheese. I was dying for a pasta, but in an effort to eat lightly I went for the steamed trout, served with an utterly flavorful bean and tomato “mush” that I couldn’t get enough of.

Dessert was insane too. Hot fried beignets with chocolate mousse fulfilled my craving for something classic, and the Sweet Cheese Cremant with blueberry sorbet proved that there’s more than just traditional dishes at this place. By the end of the meal, I was reluctant to leave our cozy booth for two, but I have every intention of coming back next week for a bowl of the gorgeous black fettuccine that was served to my neighbor.

pate maison (photo from seriouseats)

pate maison (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

Compared to Balthazar, I think the standout difference of Lafayette is its slightly more elegant setting and menu (and a few more pastas) – Balthazar is just a touch more core to its rustic French brasserie roots. Either way, it’s going to be a real toss up the next time I’m in the mood for French food.

Grade: A+
Location: 380 Lafayette Street at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette
Website:

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Erin's Favorites, French, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Noho

John Dory Oyster Bar: fish bowls & parker house rolls

oyster

I went to the original John Dory Oyster Bar when it opened right next to Del Posto for about a year. It was good, but I don’t recall it being mind-blowing. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience at the relatively new Gramercy location last week. The space is uniquely aquatic, bold with beautiful fish tanks high above the bar, an ornate oyster shucking station, black tiled walls, eclectic fish art and bright blue and green cushioned high stools. But while I usually love everything stamped with April Bloomfield’s approval, I was underwhelmed by the food and frustrated by the horribly inefficient service. And despite all the hype surrounding its opening, the space emptied out by 11pm – a shocker for any NYC restaurant on a Saturday night.

While our waiter was friendly, young, and passionate about his oysters, the wait time between placing our order and receiving the food was astoundingly long. Fortunately, early on in the meal I had devoured two warm, fluffy parker house rolls glistening with golden butter, which come 3 per $4 order.  The plates then came out at a snail’s pace, one at a time: oysters, razor clam ceviche (never again), an oddly textured semolina soup, chorizo stuffed squid, a lobster roll, and an odd dish called kedgeree, which is essentially a mixture of butter, rice and fish. While the chorizo stuffed squid, the shoestring fries and the oysters were expectingly tasty, everything else irked me for one reason or another. The lobster roll was smothered in mayonnaise, and I am still having nightmares about the razor clam ceviche. Slimy. Wet. Gross. Though, to be fair, I don’t think I would have enjoyed raw clams in any setting, so I don’t blame John Dory Oyster Bar for this.

JohnDory_Parkerhouse-Rolls

parker house rolls

chorizo stuffed squid

chorizo stuffed squid

nightmarish clams

nightmarish clams

mayo-roll

mayo-roll

So, given that the food wasn’t fabulous, I likely won’t head back uptown for my oyster fix – I’m quite content with Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village. But, if you’re in the market for the most delicious rolls you’ll ever taste, and want to be in a unique space away from the bustle of downtown, John Dory Oyster Bar has your name written all over it!

Grade: C+
Location: 1196 Broadway @ 29th
Website

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Seafood

Prune: simple, stand-out French fare in quaint quarters

1

Prune is another one of those special places, like Buvette, who’s got their brand essence down to a T; the feeling of elegant comfort is oozing throughout every minor detail of the restaurant. The bright pink awning, the matching pink menus and pink-uniformed wait staff, the tiny wooden tables, the adorable open kitchen exposing big copper pots, the white bowls of citrus, the hand-written menus, and the rustic wainscoting create the perfect aura of an adorable French cafe. No trendy stilettos and 3 hour wait lists here – Prune draws a neighborhood crowd looking for comfort in a sea of Lower East Side Manhattan scenesters. The setting, in addition to the delicious food, is why I entered and left the place smiling.

Prune is a legend. I’ve been reading about it since I moved to New York 4+ years ago, but it takes a lot to get me to venture to the Lower East Side. Fortunately, I was out of work early so I couldn’t pass up the invitation to have dinner there with my boyfriend, a long time fan of the place. I started my meal off with an italian greyhound- my ideal cocktail of vodka, fresh squeezed grapefruit, campari and rosemary served over massive ice cubes in a dainty glass tumbler and the perfect side-kick to the tin of seriously addictive chick-pea flatbread. I arrived pretty hungry, so that in addition to the fairly meat-heavy menu led me to order more heartily than usual. We started with the parmesan omelette and a side of swiss chard with olives, both light and beautifully simple. The omelette, slightly browned, was a savory combo of just a few ingredients: eggs, generous shavings of parmesan and beautiful flakes of salt. With the lightly sautéed greens, it would have been a beautiful meal on its own, but I couldn’t resist trying the filet mignon and homemade pork sausage that the couple was devouring next to us.

pretty in pink

pretty in pink

sidecar + flatbread

sidecar + roti

omelette = perfection

omelette, lightly browned but moist and soft

swiss chard

swiss chard

pork sausage

pork sausage

steak

steak

I’m not a huge pork fan, but this sausage was awesome, not only because it’s seared to a crisp, but because it wasn’t bursting with oily moisture like some sausages I’ve tried. The flavor is deep and earthy, perfect with the bed of lettuce served beneath it. The compact filet of steak, surrounded by a beautiful fried fan of potatoes, was simple and delicious as well.

Nothing on the dessert menu stuck out to me, but the meal ended with complimentary chunks of dark chocolate (70% as we confirmed) served with the bill. See! Every little detail is well thought out. This is the type of place I want to be and if I were to ever become a restaurateur, would want to open one day. It’s not cheap for the portion sizes, but I’ll definitely be back.

Grade: A
Location: 54 East 1st Street btwn 1st and 2nd Ave
Website

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Filed under East Village, Erin's Favorites, French, Fun Group Dinner, Lower East Side

Featured City Post: San Francisco’s Rich Table, elevated comfort food in farm-like rusticity

sfgate

Whenever I visit San Francisco for work, I try to maximize the productivity of my trip by squeezing in a visit to a new and noteworthy restaurant. Last week, it was Rich Table, a bustling Hayes Valley hot-spot that the man at the bar called “the hottest table in town.” Though we scored a last minute reservation for 7:15pm, my friend and I decided to give up our spot at the communal table (separated by planters, the reservationist assured us) to sit at the bar for a better view of the open kitchen and admittedly, the very attractive chefs.

Sitting at the bar always warrants a stiff drink to start the night, and since San Francisco is really one-upping New York in the specialty cocktail department, I knew I had to try one. The bartender’s gin and ginger concoction of course came in an old fashioned champagne coupe and went down like a refreshing glass of water. They also have a great selection of wines by the carafe that are conveniently grouped by price; the gruner veltliner I’ve decided is now my favorite.

One important thing to note as a bread-lover – it’s delicious, but it’s a $4 sacrifice. Come prepared to spend it, because it’s definitely a must- these 1-inch thick slices of fennel sourdough are toasted to order and served with house-churned butter. The rest of the meal, however, did not match up to the bright energy of the place. The crab cioppino was a mess of over-oiled, over-salted crab meat with a pathetic sprinkling of dried artichoke chips, and the chicken lasagna evoked memories of chow mein with it’s large pieces of chicken and long green onions. The small popped corn sprinkled on top was random and seem disconnected from the rest of the dish. We hoped to be saved by the vegetarian entree, roasted potatoes with arugula salsa verde, but for $19, I would have rather eaten 10 bags of McDonald’s french fries. Small potatoes sprinkled with salsa was probably a poor order choice in the first place, but the flavors didn’t match up to the saltiness to the rest of the meal.

fennel bread

fennel bread

chicken lasagna

chicken lasagna

Unfortunately, the performance was not enough to encourage us to stay for dessert; we walked a block up for a pot de creme and wine at Absinthe to ensure a satisfying end to the meal. But Rich Table is an interesting place that combines thoughtfully plated, interesting food in casual comfort. The chefs obviously care about what they’re doing here, and they’re taking a risk to do something different. So, I’d definitely like to go back and try a few other dishes – I’m not writing this off as a goodbye just yet.

Grade: B
Location: corner of Oak and Gough

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Filed under American, Featured U.S. City Posts, Fun Group Dinner